On Events & Production [From LinkedIn]

Ah, work.

So, I’m part of a group on LinkedIn called “AAA”, it’s for people who work in the video game industry. Someone posted recently asking about events, their discovery, producing, advice, and so on. I’ve decided to share some of my replies here so I can spruce them up with links, examples, etc.

D.I.C.E. Summit.
Game Developers Conference.
Penny Arcade Expo.

These events are staples within the ever changing games industry. They provide a gathering place for industry folk and numerous enthusiasts to collaborate and celebrate our universal passion for games.

In addition to major industry events, more focused events are popping up everywhere such as:

My questions to you all are:
1) What is your role in the industry (or role you would like to play if you are starting out)?
2) What was the last event you attended (or would like to attend) and why?
3) How did you find out about that event?
4) Are there any tips/ sources/ tools you use to discover events?

Nintendo Hype Team
The Nintendo Hype Team’s job was to do just that; Create hype for the upcoming CubeClub.

There is certainly no shortage of industry events these days and although it’s nice to see them making a come back, the industry seems divided as ever. I often talk to folks about how the “middle class” of games are vanishing. The big studios/publishers are consolidating more and more while the indie developers are turning more and more to things like Kickstarter and mobile only and this is reflected and easily visible in the way the industry events are going.

PAX: East this year was hugely indie focused (though that’s always been the case) while E3 (and pre-E3) has really come to represent the excessive, farcical, dog and pony show side of the industry. Along the way are the typical Big Guns: GamesCom, Tokyo Game Show, GDC, as well as some of the smaller more focused ones like BlizzCon, MineCon, EVO20XX, and Destination Playstation. There are also the events that are not exclusive to video games, but they have a presence due to their influence on popular culture like ComicCon, SXSW, CES, ToyFair, and so on.

ComicCon is a great example of an event really being easily discoverable since nearly every major city (and some not so major) have one. Obviously San Diego is the show stopper, but there is also New York ComicCon, Boston ComicCon, Emerald City ComicCon, Paris ComicCon, etc etc.

Below these tiers, there are obviously the very targeted local events. These include things like mobile tours, one off events, marketing events like game launches, meetup groups, and social network groups.

  1. I am an Event Production Specialist. I’ve worked in the video game industry for over 10 years.
  2. The last event I attended was the 2013 PAX: East/GDC overlap.
  3. I’ve helped produce them both in my career and they are pretty well publicized events.
  4. As for discovering events:
  5. Follow the major games journalism outlets:
    The folks who report on games always keep track of these events, it’s their job. Shows like E3 are pretty much only for them anyway, but if there is an event of even marginal size they’ll probably be sending someone.

    Polygon | Kotaku | Joystiq | Destructoid | Giant Bomb

    Go straight to the developers of games you like:
    A good example here is Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends. They are always throwing events because their game is a great platform for it. Harmonix is another great example. The RockBand.com forums have a section dedicated solely to Rock Band events of all sizes, all over the world.
    Dig into the marketing companies:
    Most studios don’t do all their event production in-house, they farm the grunt work out to marketing and promotions companies. These companies always try to feature/promote the events because, well, they have to.
    Go to where the games/gamers are:
    Arcades and game stores usually have the DL on events going on in the area since a lot of them are sponsors. If there is an event going on, they’ll want you to hear about it.

    Online networks:
    MeetUp.com and Facebook are the two big names here. It’s pretty easy to find groups of all sizes that are getting together to play.
    Follow the big names in gaming:
    Social media outlets like Twitter are chock full of the latest goings on of tons of developers. If Warren Spector is going to give a talk somewhere, he’s going to tweet about it.

    If Microsoft is planning an event somewhere there’s a good chance that Major Nelson has it on his blog or in his podcast.

    Follow the money:
    Events are expensive, they need sponsors. A lot of sponsors love to talk about what big event you can find them at next. Companies like Razer, Gunnar Optics, nVidia, Logitech, etc all sink tons of money into events and are usually the first to publicize their involvement.

Gunnar Optics

If I may inquire a bit further…
– What was your favorite event to produce and why?
– What event(s) have you not played a role in that you would love to produce?
– Did you start with games industry specific events, or transition from producing events for other industries?
– What are the 3 most challenging aspects of your career?
– Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring event production specialists who come across this thread?

  1. This is a tough question because I have been involved in way more than what I have listed here on LinkedIn, or even my website. If I had to pick one, it would probably be Pokémon Rocks! America (St. Louis) in 2003. For three days my team and I worked around the clock to transform Union Station in St. Louis, MO into a town straight out of Pokémon. It was awesome and the thousands of fans that showed up, cartoon/game/ccg, loved all of it.
  2. Events: Pokémon Rocks! St. Louis

  3. I grew up with Fighting Games, so EVO has always been a special goal for me. I’ve never been a part of it, but that will change this year. Past that, I’d love to be a part of the Final Fantasy XI Fan Festival, but the odds of there ever being another one are very low.
  4. Yep. I started in video games and spread out to other industries.
  5. I’m not sure about three since challenges tend to be unique to the individual. For example, I enjoy travel and living on the road, so being away for nine months out of the year isn’t really “challenging” for me. For someone with a spouse and/or children though, that might be difficult. An important one I will mention is:
    Managing Expectations:
    This is especially true for sponsors and corporate non-event people, but also for yourself. If you work in events you will routinely get asked to perform the impossible. This typically stems from people who “saw something cool once somewhere” and want you to reproduce it for them despite the fact that they are only willing to contribute a quarter of the resources to see it happen. That’s not to say something similar cannot happen, or you cannot still exceed a clients expectations (which you should always be trying to do anyway) with your final product, just that it takes a bit of creativity, finesse, and honest transparency.
  6. Hmm, words of wisdom…
    Keep your passion.
    One of the reasons I stayed in events was because I am passionate about giving fans an unforgettable experience and that comes from being a fan myself. I don’t ever want to produce an event that I wouldn’t be excited to attend myself. One of my production pillars is “Sincere enthusiasm.” Fans will know if you’re bullshitting them, especially kids, so don’t. Be authentic and genuine. This is why I never produce for companies that use booth babes/bros at their events.

    Nintendo Street Team

    Don’t seek glory.
    Event production is not about recognition, it’s not about the spotlight. It’s about giving your brand the best possible platform on which to take the spotlight. If your dream is to be on stage giving the performance, talking to press, playing the live demo, showing off the latest and greatest, then event production isn’t for you. Your job is to make sure everything is flawless for the people that are doing those things. Bear in mind, those things will most likely happen to you, but that should never, ever, be your priority.
    Assume you are responsible.
    For everything. This is one of the hardest aspects for a lot of people, but it’s how I was raised, it’s something I apply to my work, and it is incredibly important in live event work. You have to be willing to take responsibility for everything. Even if it’s technically not your fault, it is.

    • Something wrong with the game? Well, you didn’t make it but it’s on your show floor, it’s your responsibility.
    • Venue air conditioning up too high? You have no direct control but, it’s your responsibility.
    • Fire Marshall shutting down the show for over-capacity because someone oversold tickets? Deal with it, it’s your responsibility.
    • Ubisoft exceed their decibel threshold trying to upstage you, trip all the venue breakers, and knock out power for the whole wing of the convention center? Amateurs, but it’s now your responsibility.

    Once you are willing to accept responsibility for everything, you can move on to the important part: Fixing anything. That show has to go on, no matter what. That is your job.

    The Nintendo Revolution/Wii Error Screen

    Past that, well, just be professional, keep a cool head, and learn as much as you can about everything. Events, especially live events, are stressful and chaotic but success comes from accepting that reality and working inside those parameters to get the job done. Don’t get caught up in the chaos, it’s a constant. Always stay focused on how to best manage it. Learn to prioritize.